In the big-money, high-pressure world of real estate construction in Canada’s biggest city, does this sound like a major developer talking?
“We see our business as a platform for progressive social change, which includes building affordable housing, working towards eliminating homelessness in our cities, and working towards hunger relief. We see it as a business that is able to – and allows us to – make an impact on all these important social issues.”
The speaker is Mitchell Cohen, who for 33 years has been President and CEO of The Daniels Corp., the developer that doesn’t act like one. Its current flagship project is the massive renovation of downtown Toronto’s Regent Park, the once-blighted community housing development that is now blossoming. Daniels also built the TIFF Bell Lightbox, home to the Toronto International Film Festival and an example of how a building can revitalize a community through culture. In Scarborough, it is working on 5131 Sheppard Avenue East, near Markham Road, with 30 percent affordable housing.
A Scarborough resident for the past 10 years, Cohen joined the company shortly after its founding in 1983 by former Cadillac Fairview chairman and CEO John H. Daniels, who had helped build Eaton Centre and the TD Bank tower and is still the Daniels chairman. Cohen brought with him his background as a community activist for tenants’ rights in Montreal and a stint in co-op housing in Toronto. He’s the first to say that the company’s goal is to make a profit, but notes it is dedicated to working with non-profits.
“Promoting the notion of ‘a home for all Canadians’ is just part of our DNA. It’s part of what we do, and it’s also good for business. I think doing the right thing in the corporate world is always good for business.”